6.4.2 The Goat to Azazel

In the KJV, the goat given “to Azazel” is rendered “Scapegoat.”  This is in keeping with the KJV’s tendency to render the names of demons as common animals.  However, the lamed (l) inseparable preposition meaning “to” that is attached to Azazel makes it clear that the goat is given l’Azazel (lzaze:l), or “to Azazel.”  Furthermore, there is consensus from the Kabbalah and Talmud that Azazel refers to either a demon, a place in the wilderness, or both.

Lev 16:10 (KJV)

10  But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.

Lev 16:10 (My Literal)
But the goat that ascended upon him the lot for Azazel, he will continue to live to the face of Jehovah, for an atonement is upon him for letting him go to Azazel of the wilderness.
to Azazel
the lot
upon him
And the goat
upon him
for atonement
of Jehovah
to face
to live
he will continue
of the wilderness
to Azazel
for letting go

Table 6‑3: A Literal Translation of Lev 16:10 (View Pic)

The most natural reading of Lev 16:10 suggests Azazel is a demon or god.  This is due to the parallelism of roles with the goat given “to Azazel” with the goat given “to Jehovah.”  However, many writers of the Talmudic period, including the notable Rashi, write only of Azazel as being a place to which the goat was taken and killed.  As we shall see, Azazel most likely refers to both a person and a place.  It refers to the demon Azazel, and at the same time, it may be understood to indicate that place where that demon was buried under a great mountain of rock and bound by the angel Rafael in the Book of Enoch.  This is the same place where the goat to Azazel was taken on Yom Kippur.  So when the goat was taken “to Azazel”, Azazel could be understood as referring to the demon trapped in that dread place, or the locale itself.  As already mentioned, many Talmudic writers may have wished to downplay the demonic role of Azazel, and simply referred to Azazel as the name of the place where the goat was taken. 

Azazel and His Place of Binding

The etymology of Azazel (lzaze – Strongs 5799) is not entirely agreed upon.  The KJV and others presume it to be derived from a combination of ez azal (lza ze), which the KJV understands as “goat sent away” — with ez (ze – Strongs 5795) meaning “goat”, and azal (lza – Strongs 235) meaning “sent away.”  However, ez might best be understood as having the literal meaning of its underlying root.[1]  This underlying root is azaz (zze – Strongs 5810), which means “prevalence”, “strengthened”, or “impudence” in the sense of being strengthened against someone.   Thus Azazel may be understood to be more properly derived from the roots azaz azal (lza zze), and a better literal translation of the name might be “prevalence sent away” or perhaps “impudence sent away.” [2]  This name makes sense if Azazel were the seed of Lilith.  She would name her son after his and her circumstances.  In Lilith’s perception, she and her son were a “prevalence” against God which was sent away from the garden.  Lilith’s key feature is that she in rivalry against Eve and her seed, God’s select, and that Lilith believes she and her seed should be prevalent on earth, just as Lucifer believed he should be prevalent in heaven. 

Although the etymology of Azazel is in doubt, there is some confirming evidence to suggest that azaz azal (‘prevalence sent away’) is on the right track.  This evidence comes from the name of Azazel’s place of imprisonment, Dudael, mentioned in First Enoch 10:4-8.  Dudael is most likely derived from dadah el (la hdd), meaning “submission to God.”  Dadah (hdd  – Strongs 1718) is rendered “to go softly” by KJV, but it is clear from its two uses in the Bible (Ps 42:4, Isa 38:15) that it more properly means “to submit.”  Gesenius holds this meaning also, noting that it comes from a related Arabic root meaning “to waver” or “to totter” in going.  So we see that by being bound in Dudael, Azazel was bound in a place of “submission to God.”  This is in perfect contrast to his boasting name, which was “prevalence sent away” or “impudence sent away.”  Therefore, in judgment the impudent against God is bound in submission to God’s power.

Dudael is sometimes referred to by other names.  Yoma 6:8 of the Mishnah refers to the place as Beth Hadudu (wdwdx tyb), which literally means “house of his piercing.”  The second word comes from the root hadad (ddx -Strongs 2300), meaning “to be sharp.”  As Conick points out, Beth Hadudu is probably based on some clever Hebrew wordplay, for in Enoch 10:5 Azazel is tossed upon rough and jagged rocks, and the root hadad sounds similar to dadah.[3] 

[1] The tendency for understanding the ez root as meaning “goat” instead of its literal interpretation doubtlessly draws heavily upon the fact a goat is used in the ceremony. 

[2] Some hold that Azazel may be derived from azaz el (la zze), thus meaning “Prevailed of God” or “Impudence to God.”  However, this is dubious as the supposed el root (la) is interrupted by a zahyin (z).

[3] Paradise Now: Essays on Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism, by April D. De Conick.